Training Gives Newest CUDE Grads a ‘Renewed Sense of Hope’ and ‘Increased Passion’

Maps Credit Union’s Oscar Porras holds his diploma after graduating from the Credit Union Development Educator program. With Porras are CUDE facilitator Bob Schumacher, mentor Holly Fearing and Lois Kitsch (right), the NCUF’s national program director.

As the community outreach coordinator for Maps Credit Union, Oscar Porras has always believed in the importance of teaching financial literacy skills and reaching out to the unbanked and underserved.  

“Every day, I think about how my work is meeting credit union operating principles, such as ongoing education, social responsibility, service to members, and non-discrimination,” says Porras, whose work at Maps often focuses on the mid-Willamette Valley’s Hispanic community. “But now, I have such a better understanding of how my work has an impact on others and how meaningful it really is.”

That’s because Porras and two other credit union professionals from the Northwest — Derrick Rhayn of Rhayn Collaborative Consulting and Wendi Gephart of CU Strategic Planning — can now add CUDE to their titles after completing Credit Union Development Educator training from the National Credit Union Foundation.

It was a chance, Porras says, to learn how his priorities fit into the “people helping people” philosophy of a worldwide credit union movement.

“I definitely learned more than I expected,” Porras says. “CUDE has really become a part of who I am now. It isn’t just a designation.”

Forty-three executives from around the world completed the Spring 2014 CUDE course, which was held at the University of Wisconsin in late April. During the week-long program, they participated in group exercises, went on field trips, and held intense discussions with speakers from around the credit union system.

Participants also were required to complete team projects, which included opening an Islamic banking center, developing credit union solutions to payday lending, providing microfinance assistance to women in the Philippines, spreading credit union awareness, and debating the merits of a small credit union merger.

Wendi Gephart of CU Strategic Planning holds her diploma after graduating from the Credit Union Development Educator program. With Gephart are CUDE facilitator Bob Schumacher, mentor Holly Fearing and Lois Kitsch (right), the NCUF’s national program director.

Porras and Gephart’s team project: deciding whether to pay board members, and developing a policy for board development and recruitment.

“I feel like I lucked out, as it’s a timely issue in Washington state,” says Gephart, who is the director of research and grant writing for CU Strategic Planning in Tacoma. “Thanks to Stacy Augustine, my boss at CU Strategic Planning, I had ready access to research.”

What the team found, Porras says, is that “many of the pros for paying a board member could be addressed without having to really pay board members.” Team members created a plan to give current directors a better understanding of their own credit union, its operations and the community in which they serve. They also developed an evaluation process for board members and a succession plan that addressed retirements and recruitment.

“Trusting the process was very interesting,” Porras says. “You really had to just give up your preconceived notions and trust these people who you didn’t know. At some point, everything just changes and you build an incredible bond with your teammates, mentors, and facilitators.”

That kind of collaboration impressed Rhayn, too.

As the “chief catalyst” for Rhayn Collaborative Consulting in Tacoma, Rhayn cultivates and supports strategic partnerships that address various aspects of social change, including economic inequality. His CUDE team was charged with finding ways to engage potential members who don’t really know what credit unions are, and they decided to use Unite for Good as a “super brand” for both credit unions and cooperatives.

Derrick Rhayn of Rhayn Collaborative Consulting poses after Credit Union Development Educator graduation with CUDE facilitator Bob Schumacher, mentor Donal Urquadt and Lois Kitsch (right), the NCUF’s national program director.

“We recommended regionally based, transformational festivals that would feature well-known musicians and speakers who are passionate about credit unions and cooperatives,” Rhayn says. “These festivals would increase visibility, highlight cooperative values and principles, and simultaneously showcase the mission-driven advantages of credit unions.”

All three CUDE graduates say they left CUDE training with a deeper appreciation for the credit union system, and how the philosophy of “people helping people” is embedded in the DNA of credit unions.

“I have always been interested in developing and supporting networks of low-income-designated and community development credit unions,” Rhayn says. “As a result of CUDE training, I now have a renewed sense of hope and increased passion to work with credit unions to develop innovative programs in partnership with nonprofits to meet the needs of the underserved. And I will bring this passion to the social-change consulting cooperative where I am a member-owner.”

Gephart echoes that enthusiasm.

“I learned a lot, made new friends, and feel better connected to the credit union movement,” she says. “The better understanding that I gained will shine through every aspect of my work.”

Registration is still open for the next 2014 DE training, which will be held Sept. 10-17 at the Lowell Center on the campus of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Registration and more information can be found on the NCUF website by clicking the “Register for the September 2014 DE Training” button.

Questions about this story? Contact Gary M. Stein: 503.350.2216, gstein@nwcua.org.

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